After more than a decade of regular yoga practice, what’s keeping me going is the yearning for improvement, of the hope for eventually unlocking the secret to what practicing yoga will yield. If expecting a different result for doing the same things over and over is insanity, then yoga has taught me to keep on going anyway: Expectation is beside the point; it is the trial that matters.
The stress of working in Washington, DC for the military during the post-September 11 years drove me to yoga. One of the first retreats that I attended was a naked yoga retreat for men in a small town in upstate New York. The suggestion of what this could be was too tempting and I went expecting the world, yet fear seeped out of my pores.
The experience was so profound that I decided to give up my government job and move to New York. To do what I was not sure, but I knew that a door has been opened and I had no choice but to walk through it. There has been only a handful of times when such moments of clarity sparked in my life. Now, 10 years later, I find myself on Koh Phangan, a tiny tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand. The yoga that I teach on the beach is practiced without clothing. Raised eyebrows often demand that I defend myself: “What makes naked yoga relevant?” “Is this a sex thing?”
Nudity is often confused with sensuality and we tend to think that what makes us feel good must be bad. So better to hide, for it is safer under covers where no one can see: Who knows what might happen? Ten years ago, such fear-based expectations almost kept me from starting on the path to liberation. Yoga, naked or not, is about exposing the body to various disciplines in order to free the soul. In a culture obsessed with material wealth, reducing the body to its bare essentials can have quite a profound effect on the individual.
On the practical side, yoga is a science of energy management. While western thinking talks about the heart beating, yoga asks: What makes the heart beat? We go to the root of the cause. It not fair to abuse something until it breaks only to find disappointment when a fix quick is not an option. Modern medicine, surgery, and therapy are expensive treatments to ailments that might not occur if we care about the entire system.
Yoga, regardless of the method of delivery, should never lose sight of the big picture, of taking care of the entire system: A regularly watered plant will bear more fruit and a withered specimen. Right now, natural disasters are on everyone’s lips in Thailand, for the very congested, urban Bangkok is about to get a rinse from the massive flooding that’s affecting the central plains of the country. Plants that are firmly rooted, that have been watered for years, with withstand the deluge. Have you watered your plant lately?